How we test hi-fi mini systems


Everything we look at, and listen to, when hunting for hi-fi.

Listen up


A hi-fi mini system can have all sorts of fancy bells and whistles, but the best available model can be determined by a single question – which one sounds good? While it's important to take our expert test results into account, their conclusions shouldn't be your only consideration. Your ears are the best indicators, which is why you should always try before you buy. A salesperson may insist that a $1500 system sounds better, but if you prefer a $500 equivalent, follow your instincts.

On top of sound quality, you should also consider ease of use, energy consumption, flexibility and accessibility. Does the system support all the music formats in your collection, such as mp3, AAC and FLAC? Does it also support streaming from services like Spotify, Deezer and Tidal? Are there enough relevant inputs for your home entertainment devices? Can the hub connect to the internet, and if so, how?

The following is a breakdown of how we test mini hi-fi systems. Our rigorous testing allows you to make an informed decision when it comes time to purchase.

See how brands like Yamaha, Pioneer and Denon fared in our hi-fi mini system reviews.

Our expert testers

Our testers have years of expertise in testing audio equipment and, unlike most reviewers, we don't rely on one individual's perception to rank products. Instead we use a listening panel of three people with expertise in sound appraisal who have shown that they can consistently rank products for their sound quality.

Scores

The overall score for mini hi-fi systems is made up of sound quality (75%), ease of use (10%), standby energy (10%) and remote control assessment (5%). Bluetooth range does not contribute to the overall score.

Sound quality

A panel of experts listens to musical passages across various genres, including classical, rock and pop, in addition to a movie scene. The experts assess the overall quality of the system's performance, sitting approximately two metres away.

Ease of use

Our ease of use testing determines how easy it is to set up and take advantage of the features included in the mini hi-fi system. Our testers assess the set-up process, which includes connecting speakers, connecting to the internet and syncing devices via Bluetooth. They also assess the usability of built-in controls, the remote control (if available), and the input accessibility (front facing USB and auxiliary inputs increase the ease of use score). Button size, spacing and readability are also important factors.

Standby energy

Calculated in kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, based on 20 hours a day in standby mode. The expense is calculated in dollars per year, based on 30c/kWh (rounded to the nearest 10c).

Bluetooth range

Our range test reveals how well a Bluetooth speaker works in different environments. We place each hi-fi system in an identical position and then measure when the signal between it and a smartphone/tablet begins degrading, right up to the point when it disconnects.

The total score is the average of three test results. The first measures the signal strength without any interference; for the second we obstruct the signal with three closed doors; while the third measures the range once the signal has passed through a brick wall.

Most of the speaker systems we test connect wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, but we don't include these results in our findings as all models scored similarly.

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